Pardoning War Criminals

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Stuart Taylor argues against war crimes for those involved with torture:

The reason for pardons is simple: what this country needs most is a full and true accounting of what took place. The incoming president should convene a truth commission, with subpoena power, to explore every possible misdeed and derive lessons from it. But this should not be a criminal investigation, which would only force officials to hire lawyers and batten down the hatches.

I must say I'm baffled by Stu's sudden campaign - he already began this in National Journal - to support immunity for war crimes to those responsible for them. His argument seems to be that if we prosecute those who knowingly broke the law, knowingly crafted torture techniques, and knowingly lied about it to the public, the criminals will be less likely to tell us what they know. But war criminals, because of the very gravity of their crimes, are unlikely to confess to anything, even granted immunity. Does anyone think Addington or Yoo will cop to their crimes under any circumstance? And the precedent of letting them off the hook essentially signals to future presidents that torture is fine and forgivable.

It isn't. These people knew full well what they were doing; there is a growing documentary record of their criminality; and their own "subjective views" that they were only doing it to save the state are what every war criminal has always claimed. Yoo's memo, drawing on Serbian fascist precedents, cannot conceivably be understood as anything but a candid backing for torture. The man has said he'd be fine if the president crushed the testicles of a terror suspect's child to get a confession, true or not.

Rumsfeld's own hand-writing is on a memo fiddling with techniques devised by the Gestapo. And what does Stu think Cheney meant by "the dark side", for Pete's sake? That we know these people, that they are part of the Washington elite, even friends, should not render us indifferent to the most basic principles of decency and the rule of law. 

Cheney and Addington and Bush actively, relentlessly and surreptitiously broke the law, rescinded the Geneva Conventions, approved memos that are laughable hack work in retrospect, used false confessions procured by torture as rationales to go to war, and destroyed the moral reputation of the US, the honor of the armed services and the rule of law. They are immensely powerful, privileged, wealthy men. And they are war criminals, under the strictest interpretation of that term. They have shifted blame on the lowest of the low, while fixing the system to protect them from accountability.

America doesn't pardon war criminals. It prosecutes and, in the past, has even executed them for the same techniques that Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney endorsed.

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